Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Pelican Brief - Movie

Politics. Funders. Oil. Money. Murderers. Beautiful young woman on the run. Smart young journalist at hand. White House. Bad Boys. Happy endings. Good watching a young Julia Roberts and a young Denzel Washington fight the old bad guys.

October Sky - Movie

True story. Young kid from a coal mining town dreams of building rockets and actually succeeds. With a little help from friends, teachers and some opposition. Good family drama.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Thought for the Day - Three Things To Practice

These would be the three things to practice for a better quality of life

1) Be non-judgmental
2) Be open to all possibilities
3) Be mindful

Helps in decision making too. And staying happy.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Column in the Sunday HANS - The Dangers of Morning Walks

Thithi - Movie

Award winning debut film of Raam Reddy. Set in a small village in Karnataka. Century Gowda the colorful patriarch of the family dies leaving his property to his son Gadappa who is not interested in worldly matters any more, Gadappa's son who wants the property but cannot get Gadappa to help him and his son Abhi who is a vagrant. The story unfolds in the span of 11 days between the death and the 11th day ceremony. Very nicely done.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Il Bidone - Movie

1955. Italian. Frederico Fellini. Gang of swindlers. The vagaries of their lives. Subtle commentary - what you give is what you get. It's your choices that make you. Tragi-comic. Wonderful!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Some Nice Feedback!

Feedback from Harish Mushyam of Construction Specialities where I recently completed an eight week program for team leads on 'Leadership". The team was small but enthusiastic and I enjoyed my time with them. I was thrilled to see this mail from Harish - he was diligent, practiced the concepts and showed a fabulous learning mindset.

“Just want to share my experience with you. As I'd discussed with you earlier I already started implementing a process for appreciating QA team members by measuring their work in terms of raised defects. I have shared my thought with team and Greg, Ratna about my idea in recognizing them for their work every month by giving some gifts to them. I have created a Defect tracker and put it in shared location and every month I will take the count of each employee and quantify their defects/observations and who ever scored good count or valuable defects will be gifted.

Everyone in the team and manager appreciated my thought and they are very happy.

Recently I did Performance evaluation for one of team member and whatever positive/negative feedback provided by me was approved by Greg and team member also happy. (When I was evaluating him I remembered your session where you said - just think about the opposite person by standing in their shoes that really helps me to judge him).

Meanwhile I am working on some other areas to improve more quality of testing, I will be keep posting.”

So many ideas are running in my mind to implement the process for providing my best, I want to share with you and want to know your input as well.

One small happiness I want to share with you, yesterday one of the developers asked me “Harish, being a team leader why are you working along with your team member i have seen most of leads or manager won’t to do work closely with team because their work is distributing the work within team and reporting them to management.”

I replied to her that I am doing my duty. I never feel that I am a lead. In my past experience and current experience I know managers digging into code and working on code and when i asked them they said we have to see all angles. So I have taken them as role model. She also very much impressed with my words and asked me for some tips for her work area. Her name is Vasavi - Salesforce developer, her little discussion makes me happy because she likes my way and at the same time I got to share my learnings to someone to grow their life.

Thanks very much all your lessons and teachings.

Harish kumar”

Nice. He is on the way!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Julius Caesar - Movie

1953. John Gielgud as Cassius. James Mason as Brutus. Marlon Brando as Mark Antony. Deborah Kerr as Portia.

Surya s/o Krishnan - Movie

Sweet sentiment. Father who inspires and remains a role model for his son.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Best Writing on Writing - Edited by Jack Heffron

A wonderful, wonderful book edited by Jack Heffron. His introduction says it all. "Imagine a meeting of today's top writers. They are trading tips and opinions about their craft, talking about ideas and controversial trends...and you're right with them, hearing every word." That's exactly what this book is about. Twenty seven writers covering topics like fiction, nonfiction, poetry, playwriting and screenwriting. I stuck to the ones that offered practical instruction. These are a few nuggets I got from the book.

"When I'm really doing it right, I know not only what's in my character's wallets, but I could tell you what the great grandmother's wallet was like and generationally, classwise, historically, where the matrix that made this particular person possibly come from. Stanislavsky's admonition to actors to always know everything about your character so that even when you just scratch your back on stage you're scratching your back in a context."

"You have to be pure in the service of your characters. And its precisely that seeming selflessness, that giving up of your own ego and your own willfulness, and your own self congratulatory "Look at me, aren't I brilliant?' that purifies and lets you become clear and at one with the character that you're seeing to save."

"I think the first impulse in writing is to flood it out, let as much run freely as you possibly can. Then to take a walk or go to the bank or go to the store and come back in a day or six months later. To read it with a cold eye and say 'This is good, this is not. That sentence works. This is magical. This is crummy." You have to maintain your critical sensibility and not just assume, because it was an extraordinary dream for you, that it will be a dream for other people."

"We all have our crazy rituals. I pace. I say lines out loud a lot. Making that abstraction real, to me, as a very physical person, means to enact it physiologically. One way I do that is to read everything I write out loud many many many times. that there's a kind of ear music that operates as an editorial principal on the page even when a reader is not moving his or her lips."

"Finding a shape for the story was enormously satisfying. I wrote 22 pages and then boiled it down to three and a half pages. Partly because of the requirements of the composer but also it was such a joy to have been given this kernel of something and then to develop it and find its larger meaning. Its one of the stories that speaks to me of the subject of dreams with a special resonance."

"Character is the center of fiction for me. To have that event chronicled in the third person in an abstract way means nothing. It only means something insofar as it relates to life and experience and readiness of  single person who's open enough to the fact of an angel in her backyard to take her cup and go out and feed the angel a little milk and ask him questions about heaven."

"Questions to ask when writing
What surprises us?
Where's the tension?
What should be and what is?
Where's the conflict?
Where will these ideas, issues, people collide?
What's the problem?
What's different from what I expected?
What are the implications - for me and my readers?
What are the connections?
What contradicts?"

"Good writing takes place in intersections at what you might call knots, at places where the society is snarled or knotted up." - Margaret Atwood

"I start my work by asking a question and then try answer it." - Mary Lee Settle

Questions to ask yourself before starting
Do I want to go beyond telling what happened and recreate the feeling?
Am I interested in inner life as in outward action?
Am i curious to find out what a character is going to say or think next as in the next turn of plot?
Do I take pleasure in what Kafka called the mind revelling in its own keenness?
Do I pay attention to language itself and judge stories - including my own not just on how they read on the page but out loud?
Do I often discover what I am writing about only in the process of writing?
Do I tend to order events by their emotional or psychological links rather than their chronology?
Do I think we can best approach Truth through intuition, through hints and suggestions, that truth flees at any direct approach?

If you answered yes to many of these question, you probably find traditional structure confining. You're not alone.!  

And so much more, in small phrases, lines. Like the one where the poet's daughter goes to his house after his death and somehow gets up at 4 in the morning which is when he would get up. She thinks, he must have done this for the past 10000 days, get up at 4, make coffee, go to the table and write poetry. I cannot get that image out of my mind and cannot think of what that kind of discipline to could to anyone. I am certainly inspired. 4 am is the time.

Wonderful book. If I can, i will try and add some more lines.  Thank you Jyothi saab. And Sunil for thinking of me. Have finally begun reading your invaluable collection of books on writing.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Call Me By Your Name - Movie

Young sensitive boy. Older young man. A love story that's unusual but again not so much - it's a love story after all. Fine characters, especially the parents who accept love for what it is without judging.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

American Graffiti - Movie

George Lucas. Francis Ford Coppola. Harrison Ford. Richard Dreyfuss. 1973 vintage. What happens after school and before college in one crazy night. Good fun!

The Proposition - Movie

The Australian outback. A crazy gang of brothers - one half rapists and murderers and another on the path to reform. A deal by the cop - kill the rogue brother and I will set the innocent one free.

3 Books and a Train - Glimpses of the Pune Trip

On train
3 Books. 3 People. A Train Journey 8 Hours Long. Each face buried into its own book.

Good Luck cafe, Deccan Gymkhana
In Pune, in Good Luck Cafe at Deccan Gymkhana, while waiting for bun maska and omelette and for Kalpak to arrive, one face buried itself into a book. Anjali picked up a bunch of Nancy Drew's (what did she draw?) and read them off faster than I could buy. The long walk to Crosswords was worth it

Out on the sidewalk by the road, post Konkan Express, a contraption made with tissue to hold the sweet after desserts. Card tricks, contraptions, things to make in 5 minutes...constant activity. I cannot stand cards, Anjali is a natural.

Somewhere in Pune
A man with a drum on a cycle, going for a funeral perhaps (it looked like a funeral drum), riding to his destination in the heat, stopping to ask for directions, a stoic look on his face - it's life after all - one lives as well as another. A bicycle, a scooter, a car, how does it matter, we all breathe the same air, we all laugh and we all cry. There was a soft resilience, a gentleness in his eyes. Happy drumming brother.

Return journey on train
One book returned from Pune. Fabulous read. Thanks J.R. Jyothi saab and Sunil for gifting me with such an invaluable collection of books on writing.

Movies, books, walks, lunches, people. And there's still not enough time to meet them all. Until the next time then.

Why Writers Write - Thanks Komal

Komal aspires to be a fiction writer and is well on her journey what with sharing stuff like this - why do writers write. It's a collection of quotes she researched and picked from various sources on the net and it's too wonderful not to share. Komal will make a writer surely because she patiently typed the whole lot for me when I said I would like to share it on my blog. Patience is number one quality. Thanks Komal for sharing and the effort.

All the quotes do not have the names but the thought is good enough.

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. Why did the oil refineries around Carquinez Straits seem sinister to me in the summer of 1956? Why have the night lights in the bevatron burned in my mind for twenty years? What is going on in these pictures in my mind?” - Joan Didion

“I chose to write because of the experiences I faced growing up in an environment that was very suppressing, oppressing, racial, secretive, etc. There were many lies, secrets and deceit that were a part of my family life as well. I also was dealing with my sexuality and coming out as a gay woman. This was not going over well in an Italian, Catholic Family with a father who was the boss of the Genovese Crime Family in Manhattan. Regardless of who my dad was, I experienced many hurtles that people could relate to and wanted to share my experience with them so as to help them in any way I could.

“ I have been living inside my imagination since I was a child. I don’t have a long attention span and when I was bored in class, my mind would drift to some world from my imagination – rich with characters and conflict.”

“In general, I love to exercise my imagination when I’m working on my novels. These are worlds that are escapes from my day job!”

“In a way, writing is a tribute to all the authors and works that have fed my imagination — it’s a “giving back” to the creative world for all it’s given me. I once got the following advice, which I think feeds into why many writers do this: Write the book/movie/play you’d want to read/see if you weren’t the creator. That sums up all I’ve ever done.”

“ To leave behind a legacy so that those who did not survive will not be forgotten and those who are facing what appear to be insurmountable obstacles, will have hope. (This answer was kindly provided by Bruce Hurwitz” – Rivka Cohen’s Publisher)

“The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising… and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.”

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”
On her website, Judy Blume shares a number of tips and personal stories with would-be authors seeking advice and a starting point. “Those of us who write do it because there are stories inside us burning to get out. Writing is essential to our well-being,” she shares. It’s a sentiment that many of the authors on our list have explained, but a PBS interview with the Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret writer describes something more revealing and equally, beautifully honest. She told the network about her struggle searching for books she could identify with as a child — ” families like my family,” she explains, “Which wasn’t perfect; it was a loving family, but it wasn’t perfect. And I knew, you know, there were secrets within families.” Blume “wanted to write what [she] remembered to be true,” especially since she admits that the “voice in [her] head was the voice of a child.”

“I write to dream; to connect with other human beings; to record; to clarify; to visit the dead. I have a kind of primitive need to leave a mark on the world. Also, I have a need for money.”

“I’m almost always anxious when I’m writing. There are those great moments when you forget where you are, when you get your hands on the keys, and you don’t feel anything because you’re somewhere else. But that very rarely happens. Mostly I’m pounding my hands on the corpse’s chest.”

“I start all my books on January eighth. Can you imagine January seventh? It’s hell. Every year on January seventh, I prepare my physical space. I clean up everything from my other books. I just leave my dictionaries, and my first editions, and the research materials for the new one. And then on January eight I walk seventeen steps from the kitchen to the little pool house that is my office. It’s like a journey to another world. It’s winter, it’s raining usually. I go with my umbrella and the dog following me. From those seventeen steps on, I am in another world and i am another person. I go there scared. And excited. And disappointed – because I have a sort of idea that isn’t really an idea. The first two, three, four weeks are wasted. I just show up in front of the computer. Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too. If she doesn’t show up invited, eventually she just shows up.”

“Why do writers write? We write because it pushes us beyond the barriers of everyday existence into a world of what might be. A world of opportunity. An infinite variety of maybes and what ifs. A vast plain of words that might help describe the world in which we live.”

“For a writer, no two days are the same. The path may not always be smooth and predictable, but there are always new sights to see. There is always more to explore.”

“ Like any great journey, writing is full of its ups and downs. Sometimes, it feels like riding a roller coaster; other times, it’s like riding a donkey. We can be taken from Byzantine riches to Ethiopian droughts — from good to bad and dark to light — in the flash of a feature or the length of a short story. There’s no comfort in a thrilling story, and the same is true for a writer’s life. It is an isolated — but far from lonely — experience. With our words and fellow “travelers” to keep us company, adventure lurks around every corner.”

“There’s a lot more to the writing life than what we earn — or don’t earn. After all, it’s not our possessions or paychecks that make for a fulfilled life. It’s those moments we choose to step into discomfort that our stories begin to be interesting.”

“A trip to the Australian Outback taught me that being away from your routine and placing yourself in a strange environment is challenging. Each moment is full of excitement and anticipation about what could happen next. It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey. Just like writing. Just like life.”

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Anjali - First Play!

With great enthusiasm Anjali joined the Hindu STEPS Summer camp at Jubilee Hills. It was a 10 day camp from April 25 to May 5, organised and scheduled very well by Meghna and Haripriya. The camp had several activities but key takeaways were that the children got to understand the dynamics of a play right from understanding the stage, props, writing, characters, dialogue, music, acting etc. Anjali was part of one of the 5 groups.
Anjali and her team
Her group came up with a play about Guddu. Anjali was chosen as Guddu because she resembled a boy most  with her short hair etc. The group was given a semi written play and they had to complete it. The process of working together on the team - dealing with pushy characters, quiet characters etc - and discovering friends everywhere by the end of it all.
Another group setting up props
So they wrote the play, rehearsed it, acted it, made props and stuff like that. One day she picked up twigs which she thought would work as fire. When I dropped her she changed her mind but then I told her to take it anyway - many times we give up on our own ideas. I don't know what happened after I left though.
A play in action
The story goes a bit like this. Guddu lives with his mom. Mom falls sick. Guddu has to go to the forest to collect firewood. He falls in a ditch which is actually a bear trap. The bear comes. Guddu is stuck. Then a forest officer comes and saves Guddu and all's well that ends well. Costumes, props, narration etc. Nicely done.
Happy children and teachers
On the last day we the parents were all asked to come over to witness the five plays and we did. It was wonderful to see the innocent energy of the children and the confidence and talent on display. How much of it goes away as we grow up thanks to beliefs that adults put in our heads! They sang, emoted, laughed, joked and it was heady fun.
Me sharing my two bits - Haripriya in the background
At the end Haripriya called me over to speak a few words and I said what made sense to me. That as children they are so non judgmental, so full of hope and kindness which is what makes their world so simple and easy. As adults we judge everything and that takes kindness and hope out of the equation. I kept it really short and then handed over the certificates to the children. So impressive were their performances that I could remember almost every single one of their performances - 22 of them!

But what remains in mind is the enthusiasm they bring, the way the other groups helped by holding props or doing all they could to help other groups, the way they all seriously exchanged phone numbers with the best of intentions and one hopes that they never lose this spirit. This is the way of joyfulness, this is how life must be lived. Not transactionally.
Giving away certificates
That is probably Anjali's first play - I don't know if she did any at school - definitely not on this scale I think. Reminds me to mention my one and only play here. It was when I was in my third class studying in St. Joseph's school in Kurnool. The play had a rich boy and a poor boy and I got to play the rich boy because I had a jacket. I was also not the nice guy in the play - I was one of those guys who have a lot but do not share.  So I was given a lunch box filled with cashew nuts, a banana and some chips. The poor guy was hungry but I just eat up my stuff without offering anything. In the end I am taught my lesson and learn to share. I hated eating the soft banana but loved the cashew and chips. More importantly I was all the time looking at our pretty teacher who I was infatuated with then and that ended my short career in theatre. Hopefully Anjali will have a longer stint.

Thank you Meghna and Haripriya. Hope to see you in another camp soon. Anjali is all ready for another one.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Flow - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

"Flow - The Psychology of Optimal Experience" is a highly recommended book. The book has another tag line - Steps toward enhancing the quality of life.

The process of total involvement with life is what MC calls flow.  As we know optimal states and total involvement states are not easy and happen rarely. But the author feels that flow can be achieved by attaining control over the contents of consciousness. However, flow does not happen in a passive time. It typically happens when a person is stretched to limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. So it is not an accidental state but one where one chooses to push beyond the normal voluntarily and is aware of the contents of consciousness.

Flow is to do with a sense of happiness - total involvement is close to that perhaps. Now the author says that if human endeavor is to be happy, then what would make people really happy is not getting rich but feeling good about themselves. It's a state of being rather than acquiring stuff. Interestingly MC says happiness does not happen by accident. It must be prepared for, cultivated and defended privately. One must achieve control over the contents of our consciousness. Most importantly, feeling secure is an important component of happiness.

Optimal experience is when we feel in control of an action, when we feel as if we are masters of our own fate. It happens rarely and almost as if by accident. But when deconstructed one finds that these moments usually occur when a person's mind or body is stretched to its limits in voluntary effort to accomplish something different and worthwhile. Optimal Experience is something we make happen. It is what we do because in the end, it boils down to feeling good.

How Consciousness works
To achieve inner harmony MC feels that we must be able to make sense of the whole and join all experience into a meaningful experience. Our inner harmony is normally distorted because we all have a picture of what we want to accomplish before we die. And where there are expectations there is a gap.  The gap between what we want and what really happens creates a gap. This gap disturbs the inner harmony.

Among things that disturbs our inner harmony is fear. Men are not afraid of things, but of how we view them, says the author. Which probably means that men are worried about the illusory loss of control than of reality. It comes back to the gap - how do we reduce it or how do we gain control over it.

Anatomy of consciousness
The author defines consciousness as intentionally ordered information. Control in consciousness determines the quality of life. One who is in control of consciousness has the ability to focus attention at will, to be oblivious to distractions, to concentrate for as long as it takes to achieve a job. One could say he is a master of his fate already because he has a clear goal, a clear process and is on the job. All conrollables and no uncontrollables.

Clearly then, order in our consciousness (being in control of feelings and thoughts) happens when our psychic energy or attention is invested in realistic goals where skills match opportunities for action. Attention is the psychic energy we invest in the world or things. Attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience.

To improve quality of life MC prescribes two ways - 1) to make external conditions match our goal 2) to change how we experience external conditions to make them fit our goals. Or more simply, reduce the gap.

The author calls disorder in consciousness as Psychic entropy (disengagement). To get fully engaged mind and body, the author says we normally increase the level of complexity in our life (make life/work difficult with higher level challenges of time or effort). We use differentiation (separate ourselves from others to be unique) and integration (join ourselves with others) as tools to do this.

Certainly, competition is one way to develop complexity. It merges action and awareness.

The author deconstructs the process of being in flow
Flow must have
  • Clear goals and feedback
  • Concentration on the task at hand
  • The paradox of control
  • Loss of self-consciousness
  • Transformation of time
The author talks of autotelic personalities or people who have their own self (auto) owned (contained) goals. (People who own their space and lives by setting their own goals). These autotelic people  transform jobs into flow producing activities.

By now one would have understood that the most enjoyable goals are not material.

"If you are pained by external things, it is not that they disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now." - Marcus Aurelius

Enjoyment is characterized by forward movement, a sense of novelty and accomplishment.
The components of enjoyment are (similar to flow)

  • It occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing
  • We must be able to concentrate on what we are doing
  • There are clear goals
  • There is immediate feedback
  • We act with deep but effortless involvement that removes from our awareness worries and frustrations of everyday life
  • We feel a sense of control over our actions
  • Concern for self, disappears (self returns after the experience)
  • Sense of duration of time is altered
Conditions for flow
  • A challenging activity that requires skill
  • Merging of action and awareness
  • Clear goals and feedback
  • Concentration on the task at hand
  • Paradox of control
  • Loss of self-consciousness
  • Transformation of time
Flow is enjoyable because you set the rules.

Flow in Survivors
Surprisingly flow was also noticed in survivors of holocausts, people who went through horrifying life experiences. What enabled them to survive seemed to be intense present moment mindedness which enabled close attention to minute details of their environment. While paying close attention they discovered hidden opportunities of action. This enabled them to turn bleak conditions into subjectively controllable experiences. From people who lived in concentration camps to paraplegics who lost their limbs in accidents, they all said that the experience was one thing that made them better people.

Some interesting examples. Christopher Burney, a prisoner of the Nazis, made his prison life a flow activity by committing to a minute examination of his cell, blanket, toilet etc. He drew a map of the world on the floor of the cell and travelled from Berlin to Jerusalem, in his mind,  few kilometers every day, visualising the entire experience in rich detail. Another prisoner Eva Zeisel, who was a ceramic designer, made a bra out of materials at hand, played chess against herself in her head, memorized poems, did gymnastics. Or the pilot who was captured and in prison for 9 years who kept his sanity by playing 18 holes of golf every single day, carefully choosing his clubs, varying the difficulty of courses - all in his head of course (and interestingly when he was released, played golf as if he had never missed a day of practice). MS feels that they all achieved a state of non-self-consciousness individualism - a strongly directed purpose that was not self-seeking.

Body in Flow
The challenge in physical activity is definitely what forces us to concentrate. So flow can be easily experienced in physical activities. Apart from athletes, flow in movement includes sex and yoga. The author discusses Hatha Yoga and its eight components - Yama - restraint, Niyama - routines, Asana - sitting, Pranayama - Breath control, Prathyahara - withdrawal, Dhyana - meditation, Samadhi - self collectedness. Flow in the body would also be found when all the senses are employed - and hence music, food, sight all lend to flow experiences.

Plato believed that children should be taught music before anything else. In his opinion, in learning to pay attention to graceful rhythms and harmonious themes, the whole consciousness would become ordered.

Flow of Thought
Entropy is our normal state of consciousness - neither useful nor enjoyable. Those people who seek challenges and complexity challenge their mind with riddles, crosswords etc. Here the author makes a fine point - that work and leisure are the two big parts of life - people find flow in leisure activities like adventure, writing, painting, gardening, cooking etc. However since the advent of TV people are less prone to engage in activities during leisure hours and more prone to watching others act or create. So people watch athletes play instead of playing, watch chefs cook instead of cooking, read books instead of writing etc. He points out that flow happens when you actually experience the act and not by watching someone else perform. He also mentions that our best work seems to happen in our hobbies.

As with Carol Dweck, the author also endorses a life that is keen on learning lifelong - an act that will surely put you in a state of wonder and flow.

Work as Flow
He quotes Freud's recipe for happiness - work and love. While speaking of work he cites three fine examples - Joe the mechanic, Ting the butcher and Serafina the farmer. Joe would involve himself for hours in work seeking out solutions to make work on the shop floor more efficient. When questioned about his total involvement with the job he said that he was always like that. When he was young and a toaster at home stopped working he asked himself - "If I were the toaster and did not work, what would be wrong with me?" With such empathy and mindfulness, he would find solutions to the problem at hand. Ting the butcher was legendary for the way he would slice through the meat. In his words 'perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants.' He is talking about his knife and the meat - he has become one wih the knife and the meat! Serafina, an aged farmer, who does a tremendous amount of work every single day in her alpine village and seems to love it. In each act, invests a rare mindfulness and finds great peace and satisfaction.

To improve quality of life through work the author suggests that we must
1) redesign jobs so they resemble flow activities as closely as possible, and
2) help people develop autotelic personalities.
Once we are self-contained we are free.

Flow occurs when a person's marked level of challenge is above mean level.

Enjoying Solitude and Other People
The author explains that quality of life depends on
1) how we experience work and 2) our relationships with other people

There are those who enjoy solitude - and the same solitude seems to drive many others round the bend. An example is Dorothy, a nurse who retired and went off to live in Alaska in a cottage all by herself in extreme solitude with not a soul nearby. Another example of flow in solitude was discovered by a solo sailboat sailor who happened upon another solo sailor in the middle of the ocean. The other sailboat, however, had a yellow, stinky, sticky mess on the floor. When asked the sailor told him that his fridge had stopped working and the eggs had gone bad. Instead of throwing them away he decided to break them on the floor so he could clean them and thus engage himself in 'flow' activities. The only thing he did not bargain for was for them to smell so bad.

In many ways the author keeps coming back to themes of mindfulness, doing things for the sake of doing them without hankering after results etc.

Creating Chaos
The author describes how paraplegics said they were born again after the incident because they learned many new things and ways to live more intensely and purposefully. The example of Reyad, an Egyptian youngster who just took off and wandered homeless for years is one such. He feels he is on a wonderful journey, discovering life in its extreme every day. He is coping with life on a minute to minute basis.

The author feels that to improve quality of life "we should learn to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge".

Transformation occurs when
1) one is in an unselfconscious self-assured state (a feeling that their destiny is in their hands, ego is absent and they merge with the environment),
2) Focused attention (on minute details of the world) and
3) Discovery of new solutions. Mindfulness at its best.

To develop an autotelic (self-contained) self, he says.
- set goals
- become immersed in the activity
- pay attention to what is happening
-learn to enjoy immediate experience

The author concludes that we must make our own meaning of the world by cultivating purpose which gives us direction.

Flow examines in detail aspects we are fascinated with - of optimal experience. So many theories that made sense to me - growth mindset, mindfulness, working on the process without worrying about results, using feedback as a monitoring device to check effort, the importance of purpose, all merge seamlessly into the theory. If I have to pick one, it is that of mindfulness because it involves full attention on the job at hand and once we merge, all we find is compassion.

Thanks Vinod bhai!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

IPL Captains Ranking

I have not seen too much but whatever I have seen in this IPL, these are my impressions.

8) Gautam Gambhir - Simply for not being able rally his team around and quitting. Shreyas is just a few games in and so does not figure yet.

7) Virat Kohli - For not being able to rally a fairly good team around him. That is the problem with stars - they leave everyone behind. He is a fabulous player but he cannot do everything on his own. Kaif got it right, he still needs to get this aspect right as a leader. He may or he may not, I would rather watch him play minus the burden of captaincy.

6) Rohit Sharma - Struggling to get the team going despite the firepower. No excuses for late starts.

5) Ashwin - Has a decent team and did fairly well. But though he says the right words, one feels that he exerts a lot of pressure on players through his silence and disappointment. Again, a good side that is losing its way a little.

4) Ajinkya Rahane - He seems to have got a couple of things right with his monk like reactions to the game. Jos Butler's promotion and a couple of moves are working for him and a small team is turning the heat on the big players. I like the way his marginal players are standing up - Goutham for one.

3) Dinesh Karthik - He is a changed man after that Bangladesh game. Calm and open to all possibilities. Allowing his team to perform and express themselves. They could well surprise everyone.

2)  Dhoni - Sad to say, MSD comes second best to Kane simply because for the first time I see that his fringe players are not performing as well as they should. MSD is left taking more of the burden on himself which is not ideal and not the MSD way. A slight adjustment somewhere and one wants to see matchwinners of the marginal players.

1) Kane Williamson - Set back upon setback, a small team compared to the biggies and Kane still pulled the rabbit out of the hat each time. No doubt everyone in the team feels the same ownership to perform and win as Kane and that is what sets him apart from the rest.

Getting the team to perform, getting marginal players to do matchwinning stuff, pulling off close finishes in their favour..these count for me. Let's see if things change by the end of the season.

My Article In the Sunday HANS - His Leadership's Problems

The Crimson Rivers - Movie

Complicated grisly murder plot. French film. So can't understand them much anyway. Avoid.

On Body and Soul - Movie

Complex Hungarian movie and a couple who share dreams. Do they share a soul? And can they share a life? Set in an abattoir so be ready for gore.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Nude - Marathi Movie

Beautiful. Art vs Life. About nude models and study of art.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Farewell My Concubine - Movie

Complex. Epic Chinese saga. Haunting.

Knot for Keeps - My Publication for 2018

Here comes 'Knot for Keeps' - Harper Collins anthology on the modern marriage (read marriage) edited by Sathya Saran. Krishna Sastri Devulapalli and Chitra Viraraghavan who have immense faith in my abilities to write pulled me on to the anthology that includes contributions from them both, Wendell Rodericks, Prasoon Joshi and Dr. Vijay Nagaswami. My usual reaction came up - what do I know about marriage? Except of being married.

Then some thought. Should I be flippant? Should I joke about it? Should I praise it?
I thought I'd do myself a  favour and write about my own marriage - an imperfect one - with two individuals who are completely different. Tall, short dark, fair, fast bowler, gold medallist. I never made sense of it so I thought maybe I should.

An Imperfect Marriage - my contribution to this anthology. Haven't read the others. Looks interesting though.

Friday, May 11, 2018

102 Not Out - Movie

Nice start. Weak end.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Thought for the Day - Extend Your Outer Boundaries to Prevent Getting Hurt

Another brother of disappointment is hurt. I also realised that I get hurt easily.

Then I realised I get hurt because I choose to get hurt. I allow this thing to come into me and then I choose to get hurt because it gives me some kind of a validation of my being 'right' or more importantly having been 'wronged.'. Great for TV and the movies but pretty useless for me in real life.

So while thinking about how not to get hurt at the drop of a hat I realised that I can expand my boundaries and keep hurt away. I don't need to let it in so close that it hurts. If I have my boundaries clear in my mind, there is no way anyone can hurt me.

Expand the boundaries and move on. It could well be the cure for getting hurt and suffering pointlessly.

Thought for the Day - Disappointment is Slow Poison

I realise I get easily disappointed. With myself and with the world.

I also realised that it is a useless emotion. It is slow poison. It eats into your joy.

No use getting disappointed. Move on. Drop disappointment for life.

My Religion and Me - Why I Don't Need Others to Come Into My Space

My religion and me is a very private affair. As far as I remember I have not been indoctrinated into any religion and whatever my parents felt they wanted to practice, I was automatically taught or rather, taken along. Of course they practiced it differently because it is a matter of their faith and I practice it differently because it is a matter of my faith. They did not impose their religion on me - not the depth of it, not the intensity of it, not the practices. And even if one was indoctrinated as a child, one was at that time when one had no choice in these matters. Which means by the time the child attains majority, he or she should be allowed to choose her religion. And certainly give latitude as to what is the relationship between the individual and his religion. Which is what most civilised societies permit I would think.

Which is also why I do not feel the need to answer anyone about how and what my faith is. No one can tell me that this is how I should practice my faith and if I do this I am a greater servant of the faith and if I don't I am a lesser servant. Also if I love a person of another faith that does not make me any less human or any less of my faith. The people who are going around now giving certificates to people on their faith and their religion etc certainly have no authority to do that. They are using religion to separate. First there will be religion, then there will be community and then there will be caste. Labels, filters, blocks. Nothing to do with religion nor god.

Frankly I do not see why India should even consider itself on the lines of religion. It is not part of our constitution. We are Indians. That is what matters. Can we now throw away this private affair form public life and move on? Can we look at Indians as Indians minus the  religious and caste equation?

First, I would like to state that I am an Indian. No one can claim more patriotism than me just like any son born to a mother is an equal recipient of her love. Irrespective of his success or work. Second, I have no problems with any Indian irrespective of their religion. My problem is with the mischief makers who bring religion into everything. Third, no one needs to certify me about how deeply I practice my religion and how I should practice it. You practice it the way you want to and I will practice it the way I want to. The constitution permits that. Just get out of my face. The more you talk of religion being the separator, the more an enemy of the state and of humanity you are.

And for god's sake stop spewing such venom. The kids don't need this.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

American Made - Movie

True story. But it seems so fantastic that it has to be one. A normal TWA pilot who becomes a drug smuggler for Escobar and then a gun runner and then even represents the White House before the drug runners eliminate him. Money flowing out of bags, shelves, vaults, pockets. Tom Cruise. Crazy!

Anjali - You Should use These Talents to Make Money

I was driving Anjali home when I was stuck behind this car being driven at an uncertain speed. The only logical answer to me - the driver was speaking on his mobile phone. So I bet Anjali that the driver, whom we could not see, was talking on the phone. It turned out he was.

A couple of days ago while watching an IPL game I saw Umesh Yadav bowl a fabulous delivery and get a batsman out. Something about his rhythm and about the way Rohit Sharma walked to the wicket made me predict that he would get Rohit Sharma out on his first ball. And so it happened - an inside edge that went for a review but was given out. I predicted a few more such review calls correctly.

Having seen all this Anjali told me today after the car incident.
'Nanna, you should use these talents to make money.'
For a moment I was flummoxed.
'What talents?' I asked. I could not see any.
'The way your are predicting things - in cricket and on the road,' she said all seriousness.

How does one put such talents to work and earn money? How long will beginner's luck persist?

But on a serious note, I was quite happy that Anjali noticed something about me that I did not.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Jacobinte Swargarajyam - Movie

True story. Nicely done. Very enjoyable family drama. Good sense of Dubai - now no need to visit. Made by the real life protagonist's friend. Another beautiful story in itself. Watch!

North 24 Kaatham - Movie

Nice road movie. Growth for all by the end of it. Improbable but cute.

Anjali - The Giving Tree and A Promise

Anjali joined a summer camp oganised by the Hindu called STEP Junior League. One of their exercises was to identify someone in their life who is their giving tree. Luckily for me Shobha was away doing some adventurous stuff so Anjali conferred the title on me. I am naturally very pleased with this award of the giving tree.

Thank you Anjali for making me realise that I am capable of giving. Thank you for receiving. And some more. A line that binds me for a lifelong commitment. "You are always there for me".

I am reminded of this story in the first edition of the Chicken Soup series about a young boy and his friend in Armenia. An 8.2 scale earthquake flattens the entire country including the school where the boy is studying. His father goes to the school to find his son and finds flattened buildings. There is no hope but he remembers his promise to his son. "No matter what happens, I  will always be there for you.'
He started digging. To those who told him it was pointless, he only responded - 'Are you going to help me now?' He dug for 38 hours, alone. And then he heard a voice.
His son's.
The boy says - 'I told the others you would come if you were alive Dad. And that when you saved me they would be saved too.' The young son told him that 14 out of the 33 survived because of a wedge that formed in the building when it crashed.
When the father tells his son to come out, the boy lets the others go first.
'Let them got first Dad,' he says. 'Because I know you will get me. No matter what, I know you will be there for me.'

Anjali, I don't know if I said  it before and like so many other things it's you who prods me first - but no matter what, I will always be there for you.

Thanks Chicken Soup.  Lovely story. Thanks Anjali. Lovely card.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Eye in the Sky - Movie

Drone attacks on suicide bombers. Civilian collateral. Decisions. Nice. But in some parts overly dramatic. Watchable.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Mossad (The Greatest Missions Of) - Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal

Mossad is the Israeli Secret Service famed for its many daring and precise missions that it has pulled off for the cause of Israel and the Jews. It is responsible for intelligence gathering. covert operations and counter terrorism. Since its inception in 1948 Israel has been constantly at war with its neighbours Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and other Arab countries and has had significant success.

The book details some 21 missions of the Mossad. starting from its inception in 1948. The missions include flattening a nuclear plant that was being built in Syria, capturing and bringing to trial in Israel a Nazi commanded Eichmann, capturing and killing another Nazi officer 'The Butcher of Riga', setting of honey traps to elicit information, ending Saddam's dreams of owning a super gun by killing the rogue scientist, capturing a MIG 21 perhaps for re engineering purposes, bringing home Syrian Jewish girls who were trapped in Syria with no men to marry, helping Ethiopian Jews cross over into Israel which was their promised land, establishing high level spies in Egyptian government and in so many other places, bringing down several terrorists who had inflicted much damage on Israel, eliminating the Black September leaders who were responsible for the Munich Olympics massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and so many others. The  successful mission to free the hijacked plane in Entebbe airport has been well documented in other books and movies so did not find a place here.

The book was interesting because its real life cloak and dagger stuff. Guns, spies, moles, kidnappings, traps, double agents - it has it all. The Jewish hatred for Nazi war criminals and their tenacity in following them and capturing them and bringing them to trial is noteworthy just as their dedication to bringing Jews from all over the world who wanted to come to Israel. The book also gave an insight into how Israel functions as a country amidst so much hostility around it, the politics of the region and how Mossad established itself as a top secret service organisation in the world. Good read.